Working with Paraprofessionals (Part 3)

Including Paraprofessionals in behavior management

Paraprofessionals are an important part of the learning communities. They are in classrooms and non-instructional environments in order to assist students with their academic, social-emotional, and behavioral success. Often times paraprofessionals know students extremely well and have developed a rapport with them.  They are very aware of both students’ needs and strengths and can give insight into their learning because of the close relationship that they have developed.

Teachers will often look to paraprofessionals to help with general classroom management and sometimes provide more individualized behavioral interventions.  The paraprofessional’s role in each of these scenarios should be explicitly determined and explained to him/her by the classroom teacher(s) and special educator(s).  Discussions around expectations for the paraprofessional in regard to supporting specially designed instruction, accommodations, modifications, and behavior plans should occur at the beginning of the year or when the paraprofessional is first introduced to a student and/or classroom.  Regular check-ins between the paraprofessional and teachers is crucial throughout the week.. Progress monitoring, tweaking of interventions, practices aligning to the Individual Educational Programs of the students involved, and any modifications to the expectations of the paraprofessional should be communicated clearly and often. Continue reading

True Confessions: The Truth about Standards-Based Goals

The term standards-based goal does not actually mean what everybody thinks it means. This is one of the biggest misconceptions in the Mid-State Region. So, I wanted to take some time to state the facts and myth bust.

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Fact: A student with a disability’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) must contain measurable annual goals. A measurable annual is a skill-based goal. The skill should be directly aligned with the student’s needs, as identified in the student’s present levels of performance.Fact: You can have both academic and functional based goals. If the student has an academic skill deficit, then there would be academic goals. There can be functional goals (organizational, study skills, daily living skills) if there are identified functional needs in the present levels of performance.

Myth: Measurable annual goals are based on the curriculum. No, measurable annual goals answer the question, “What skills does the student require to master the content of the curriculum?”   They do not answer, “What curriculum content does the student need to master?” The curriculum is a given, as all student with disabilities are general education students first and foremost.

Fact: Measurable annual goals are based on skills that can be assessed and measured all year round. If goals were written based on the curriculum, we would see statements such as “have not yet started this goal; will begin next quarter.” The IEP is in effect for a year, therefore the goals should be written with the anticipation the student will achieve the goal by the end of the year. The student will need the year to make progress.

Fact: A student’s IEP should be aligned to the grade-level standards. This is being known as a standards-based IEP. In 2014, the New York State Education Department released a memo titled, “Role of the Committee on Special Education in Related to the Common Core Learning Standards.” SED conveyed the message that a student with a disability’s IEP should be aligned with the grade level standards that all students are working towards achieving. It goes back to the concept that all students are general education students first and foremost. Therefore, the IEP should identify the essential skills and knowledge that the grade level standards ask the student to perform. In essence, in a given grade-level content area, what does the student need to know and be able to do? The IEP would then state where that student is currently performing in a given need area. This is what is called a gap analysis; the comparison between grade level expectations and current ability level (in an area of need). Once the gap is clear, the CSE can then determine what supports to put into place so that child can access and make progress in the general education curriculum. The CSE will also be able to identify the true skill needs of the child as we now know the priority skills for a given grade level.

Myth: The IEP must include goals that are standards. Be careful with this statement. A standards-based goal is not a standard written as a goal. It is not a measurable annual goal citing or referencing the standard. According to the SED memo listed above, “standards-based IEP goals are not simply restatements of the standards; rather, standards-based annual goals identify the essential skills and knowledge that a student with a disability needs to acquire in order to master grade-level content standards.”

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Fact: Standards-based goals are skill-based goals that are aligned to the standards. The skill identified in the goal is a priority skill for that individual child to access and progress in the general education curriculum. Working on this type of goal will help that child bridge the “gap.”

Fact: Recommendation is no more than 3-5 measurable annual goals on an IEP. There are numerous standards for a given grade-level. If you turned all the standards into goals, the student would end up with 20+ goals. 3-5 goals are a reasonable number of goals for a child to achieve in a year. Key word “achieve.” Goals should be achieved; not removed or the same from year to year.

Continue reading

In Pursuit of Inquiry

Innovation Tech ProjectsStudents at Innovation Tech are in the midst of a project where they are identifying the geographical and geological factors that influence the evolution of various species. The kids are answering this challenge with a research-based script and models of an evolved species that they will then film for a scientific documentary intended to inform the public about the possible effects of climate change. Continue reading

Why Do You Love Teaching ELLs?

Testing season is coming up, and that can be a stressful time for teachers, students, and administrators. With that stress, we can sometimes forget why we decided to become teachers in the first place. We thought we’d send some reminders about why teachers love to teach ELLs and why it’s all worth it. We asked and here’s what you had to say!


“I love teaching ELL’s because they love learning new things and show so much growth”

“I learn as much from them as they learn from me.”

“They progress so quickly”

“They are fun to teach, because you can see them absorbing information.”

“It’s rewarding.”

“I love their enthusiasm and I enjoy learning their culture.”

“Seeing the large amount of growth they make each year.”

“They have a want and drive to learn”

“Because I love watching kids learn and get smarter”

“I love teaching all children!”

“ELLs have a love of learning.”

“I grew up with ELLs and they always wished they had more support. I want to provide that support and help people connect with a new language.”

“Brings diversity”

“I love seeing how much they learn and their growth.”

“I enjoy learning about the different cultures of my students, co teaching with my peers and most importantly seeing success on their faces when thy understand something.”

“Their desire to learn, their appreciation/love for you”

Continue reading

Look for the Helpers

Recently, the idea of trauma sensitivity in schools has been a subject of interest in the Mid-State region. It seems timely, amid the constant state of uncertainty in our nation and in our world, to stop and think about the impact of stress, anxiety, and traumatic experience upon our students. We often see this impact in our schools. When exposed to adverse experiences, children often react with maladaptive behaviors for lack of a better strategy, to cope with feelings such as anger, fear and worry. Although we are not all trained in trauma intervention, we can strive to maintain sensitivity to those around us concerning the potential impact of adverse experiences. We can also, as nurturing and responsive professionals, begin to build up our repertoire of responses to our youngest learners when they experience fear, anxiety and sadness. Continue reading

OCM BOCES-Responsive Classroom® Blog: Trauma in the Souls of our Classrooms – Part 1 of 3

As a certified trainer for the Responsive Classroom I have to take part in professional development each spring with the developers of the Responsive Classroom approach, the Center for Responsive Schools. This year we were given an academic choice (a Responsive Classroom practice) to delve deeper into either the topic of Equity or Childhood Adversity. I decided I was most interested in the topic of childhood adversity. Ironically, the Winter 2017 issue of neaToday was devoted to “Trauma: The Effects on Children and Learning.

Now upon completion of this professional development, I now feel all educators need to learn more about this topic because through my own research I discovered that the problem is bigger than we might think! According to an article called How Teachers Help Students Who’ve Survived Trauma (Lehey, 2014) from The Atlantic “One in every four students currently sitting in American classrooms have experienced a traumatic event.”  This statistic was startling to me and learned too this statistic is even higher in impoverished communities. Continue reading

Scaffolding for Teachers: Becoming a Facilitator in PBL

person climbing stairs to their goalPerhaps one of the most challenging things for me to overcome while implementing Project Based Learning (PBL) was becoming the facilitator or “guide-on-the-side.”   I had developed a very traditional style of teaching with a touch of student collaborative group work. My 4th graders and I experienced PBL for the first time together. It was a new way of learning and a new way of teaching. It was my second year teaching 4th grade and I was looking for a meaningful way to tackle the New York State English Language Arts Modules while integrating Science and Social Studies. I jumped in with the support of my colleagues and hit the ground running, perhaps just a little too fast! Continue reading